‘Necessity is the mother of invention…’ Somebody think of the children!

Frinkiac - S07E23 - Oh, won't somebody please think of the children?

‘At current trends, we estimate that it would take around 50 years for the disadvantage gap to close completely by the time pupils take their GCSEs.’ (Closing the Gap? Trends in Educational Attainment and Disadvantage, Jon Andrews, David Robinson and Jo Hutchinson August 2017)

This is a startling statistic and one that has quite rightly prompted an urgent dialogue about the disadvantage gap and the implications of this gap on wider society and most importantly, on pupils themselves and their lives. This was the state of affairs as it stood in 2017. Fast forward 3 years and we find ourselves amidst an unforeseen global pandemic which has inevitably compounded this gap and left us as educationalists wondering how best to support our pupils and how best to navigate the challenges that come with this.

And this isn’t just about statistics and attainment. I observe countless educators, both within my school and across the professional community utterly disillusioned by the practicalities of what feels like insurmountable challenges. And in the true optimistic and hopeful spirit of the profession, professionals share their reflections, lessons learnt and innovations to support the wider community. And this alone makes me incredibly proud to call myself a teacher.

So in the festive spirit and in appreciation of this wonderful community of individuals, I’d like to share a tool that could be of potential value to schools, particularly during these challenging times- the HAM (holistic approaches meeting).

The base idea underpinning the HAM isn’t revolutionary- it’s the well-established notion that multiple factors have implications on learning and learners and that teachers must navigate and manage these appropriately to not only support the learner but to develop ‘the whole child’. As a teacher, when considering the ‘whole child’ ideology, I always felt somewhat perplexed. I knew the value and importance of this idea and the idea in and of itself resonated with my motivations for becoming a teacher in the first place, but it was a lot easier said than done. Realistically as a teacher, I had 30 children, all of whom I had to develop as ‘whole children’, whilst simultaneously ensuring academic success and whilst ensuring their overall safety and wellbeing. (And this was before you chucked a global pandemic into the mix!) How was this practically possible? How could this be done in a diligent way so that pupils didn’t ‘slip through the net’ as it were?

The HAM is a strategic approach to developing the ‘whole child’ in all pupils and more specifically supports those who are MOST disadvantaged to attain in line with their peers. It considers the external factors that surround a child and how these may appropriately be managed in order to unlock the key to academic success. It operates via a fairly snazzy Excel spreadsheet which acts as a database for all pupils. Within this spreadsheet, teachers (the people who know the pupils the best!) rate pupils across different strands:

  1. Safeguarding
  2. Attendance
  3. SEND
  4. Academic
  5. Behaviour

Pupils are rated from 1-5 (1 being exemplary and 5 indicating a crisis in that particular strand). The Excel then automatically ranks pupils based on number of 5’s (weighted) and average score in order to provide you with a list of priority pupils and prioritised challenges. This then prompts multi-disciplinary meetings (thus the Holistic Approaches Meeting) so that professionals, experts and the class teacher can come together to best discuss how to tackle these challenges systematically and give that particular pupil the best possible chance of succeeding, not only academically, but on the whole.

Is it the finished product? Absolutely not. Is it potentially flawed? Most probably. But ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and we’ve come together as a school to adopt an approach that we feel is entirely called for during these testing times. Amidst the national directives, uncertain news headlines and ever-changing policies there’s never been a more important time to bring it back to the children and it is our hope that the ‘HAM’ does just that…

Please contact or DM me via @teacherfeature2 for the above template.

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